A/N: The previous chapter was incredibly difficult to write because I wanted to get it right. I had planned it and planned it, and I wanted to do it justice. This chapter is difficult for an entirely different reason. I hesitated writing it for a while because after what happened in Aurora, CO, it just didn’t feel right to write about the aftermath of an imaginary massacre, in the wake of a very real one. So , now as I sit back down to write the tale of fictional characters dealing with loss, fear, and the overwhelming situation they’ve been thrust into, I dedicate this chapter to all the real people doing the same, and to all those whose lives were lost.
Chaos and destruction were everywhere in Hogsmede as Lily, James, Frank, and Alice emerged from behind the dustbins that had successfully kept them safe. Lily and Alice latched onto one another, hugging each other more fiercely than they ever had before, each one crying softly as the reality of situation they had just survived weighed down on them.
Professor McGonagall converged on where the four of them were standing.
“Are any of you seriously hurt?” she asked surveying them. “Healers are on the way right now.” After assuring herself that all four teens only had minor injuries, she surveyed them once again, tears threatening to spill over her eyes.
“I have never been so proud of any students as I am today,” she said. “Your actions go beyond bravery; you saved lives today, at the risk of your own. Professor Dumbledore will want to speak with all four of you, but he has to make sure the Healers see to all the injured, and deal with the people from the Ministry.”
“Help!” Lily, James, Alice, Frank, and Professor McGonagall turned in time to see Sirius, Remus, Katie, and Donald running toward them. Sirius was carrying the limp form of Dorcas Meadowes in his arms.
“Oh my,” Professor McGonagall said rushing forward to meet them, quickly followed by the other four teens. “What happened to her?”
“She was tortured, Professor,” Sirius said. “I tried to get to her as quickly as I could but we were all tied down with Death Eaters of our own. By the time I got there she was unconscious.” Sirius’ voice was tinged with guilt, the wish he could have done more.
“I’m sure you did everything you could,” McGonagall said. “Over here!” she called as the teams of Healers began to appear on the High Street.
“Mum!” Frank called. Healer Longbottom took one brief moment to hug her son, assuring herself that he was alive and only slightly injured before turning all of her attention to Dorcas. She immediately began issuing instructions to her fellow Healers on how she wanted the situation to be handled, and then had Sirius gently place Dorcas on one of the transports to St. Mungo’s. She placed her deputy in charge and then after one last hug for her son, she disapperated herself. After all, she was the expert at repairing and treating Cruciatus Curse damage, and Dorcas was in need of her care.
“I have to go see to everything else,” Professor McGonagall said after a moment, “you all should probably remain here for now, in case Dumbledore can’t convince the Ministry to allow their questions to wait until tomorrow.”
“Professor,” Alice said stepping forward. She glanced at James and Sirius, wishing she didn’t have to say this in front of them, wishing she could forestall saying it at all, but Professor McGonagall needed to know. “Regal Shacklebolt is dead.”
Lily felt James stiffen beside and draw in a breath, as if he had been gutted. She enveloped him in her arms wishing she could absorb some of the pain he was feeling into herself. She heard Sirius punch something before being grabbed by Remus and subsiding into silent tears on the shoulder of his friend.
“Where is she, Alice?” Professor McGonagall asked, attempting to hold herself together. Alice told her and Professor McGonagall took one steadying breath before making her way over to the spot Alice pointed to.
“What happened?” James said after a moment.
“Jackson was hurt bad,” Alice said trembling as the memory of Jackson’s injuries overtook her. “He was hit by some sort of curse that made his organs and everything come out of him. There was blood everywhere and I thought he was dead. Regal went right to him, she knew she was surrounded but she didn’t care. He was dying that much was obvious, and I think she just wanted to hold his hand until he was gone, make sure he wasn’t alone or scared. I tried to curse the Death Eater who had his wand drawn on them, but he was out of range. And then Hestia was there and she cast this spell that I would imagine was the same one used on Lily at QQS,” she said nodding to her best friend.
James and Sirius looked at each other, both of them were red eyed and still in shock at the news of Regal’s death, but at that moment both were remembering teaching the two girls that spell after Quidditch practice.
“Her spell hit its mark,” Alice said continuing. “Together she and Regal, they levitated Jackson and were making their way across the street. And then out of nowhere, I didn’t even see where he came from, a Death Eater was there. Regal engaged him, so that Hestia could get Jackson help. She kept fighting, but whoever it was, they were good. They got her. I managed them to stun them, but then I got drawn back into our fight, and the next time I looked, they were gone. I guess one of their comrades saved them. I should have killed the bastard.”
Frank pulled Alice into his arms, kissing her lightly on the head.
“We need to tell Peter,” Remus said. “We don’t want him to find out some other way.”
“Too late,” Sirius said with regret as he saw Peter make his way out of the field, his eyes landing on Regal’s still body.
“NO!” Peter cried out in agony. Sirius, James, and Remus all moved immediately to grab their friend, hugging him tightly. Peter shook with tears for several long moments, trying to collect himself before he finally managed to voice his request.
“Can I have a minute alone with her…to say goodbye.”
Professor McGonagall nodded somberly and walked a short distance away. Each of the other three boys hugged Peter before making their way back to group of teens still gathered a short distance away.
Peter sat on the ground, staring through tears at Regal’s face. He slowly reached out his hand, taking her still warm hand in his. When he had nervously prepared this morning for the moment when he would get up the courage to hold her hand he never thought it would be like this. A sob tore itself from his lips. She was gone, and he would never see her again.
As he sat their holding Regal’s hand he mourned not just the loss of the girl in front of him, but also of the possibilities that died with her. For the first couple years at Hogwarts he had felt like he was constantly on edge, waiting to fall off the broom. He had been unable to comprehend that people like James, Sirius, and Remus liked him, were his best friends. He kept expecting the day to come when they would get tired of him and move on, leaving him behind. He knew now that they were his best friends and that nothing would change that, but it didn’t stop him from feeling similarly on edge about the future that awaited him after Hogwarts.
James would marry Lily. Peter had never doubted that. In fact, he was pretty sure that Lily was the only person who ever had doubted it. They would get married and have children and live the happily ever after they both deserved. Remus would insist on being alone, not wanting to let anyone to close to him because of his condition, but he would make some huge contribution to society with his keen intelligence, and his life would have a purpose. Sirius would be, well Sirius. He would live the life of the constant bachelor, because that was what he wanted. But what about Peter; where did he fit? He had always thought he would be alone, not because he wanted to be, but because there wasn’t another option. He had thought maybe he could spend the holidays with Lily and James. And then for one shining moment there had been Regal and his life had the potential to be something special, it had the potential to be shared with someone who loved him. For that brief moment, it had seemed possible that he would also one day get married, have children, and live happily ever after. He and James could have watched their children grow up together, laughing at the exploits of Sirius, watching Remus change the world, all the while content that they had everything: families and wives that loved them. Maybe then, James wouldn’t just be his best friend; he would be James’ too. No longer third in the pecking order.
But now all those hopes and dreams were as dead as the girl whose hand he held. And he had never in his life felt so alone. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her hand gently.
“I’m going to miss you so much,” he whispered as the tears poured down his face. “I think we could have been really special together. You always were really special, of course, but when I was with you I felt really special too.”
“Daphne we need to get to the passage way,” Mary spoke. “Just because their gone now doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to come back.”
“I’m not leaving here until I see with my own eyes that James is alive!” Daphne said harshly as she continued to make her way to the High Street.
“But he might already be back at Hogwarts,” Mary said, although they both knew that was unlikely.
“He’s not at Hogwarts,” Daphne said dismissively. She walked faster as they turned onto the High Street, Mary trailing slowly behind her.
She had one brief moment of relief as she saw him standing with Lily, Alice, Frank, Remus, Sirius, Katie Finch, and Donald Fletchley. They were all alive. She felt herself breathe again for what felt like the first time in hours. And then she followed their eyes to a spot several meters in front of her. She had paid no attention to it before, her eyes only seeking him, but now she saw what she had first overlooked.
“NO!” She screamed, her heart feeling like it was being wrenched out of her chest piece by agonizing piece. “REGAL! REGAL! NO! REGAL!” She felt Mary grab on to her, hugging her comfortingly, but she shrugged her off and ran toward the spot where Regal sat unmoving. Peter looked at her with tears in his own eyes and then pulled her into a hug. They had both loved the girl on the ground.
“I’ll give you some time alone with her,” Peter said, rising to join his friends. Daphne nodded mutely.
Her senses had to be lying to her, everything she was feeling, seeing, was wrong. It had to be, because Regal could not be dead. It was impossible.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered through her tears. “I should have been here with you to protect you. You had so much more still to do. Quidditch Captain one day, and Head Girl, your star burned so bright. I’m going to miss you so much!” She leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Regal’s forehead. Before retreating to where Mary stood, a few feet back, and subsiding once more into tears, comforted by her best friend.
Professor McGonagall waited for Daphne to move away with Mary, and then permitted the transport team responsible for taking Regal’s body to St. Mungo’s to take her away.
“Aidan!” Katie Finch cried out in shock as Aidan emerged from Honeyduke’s, Eavan unconscious in his arms.
The others all turned quickly to where she was looking. They all made their way up the street to meet him, while Donald Fletchley got the attention of one of the Healers.
“Is she okay?” Lily asked, taking in the limp form of Eavan.
“Unconscious,” Aidan replied. “Her legs were shattered.”
A team of Healers approached, examining Eavan in Aidan’s arms.
“We’ll need to send her back to Hogwarts,” the one in charge said after a moment. “Get a transport ready,” he said to one of his subordinates.
“Why not St. Mungo’s?” Frank asked.
“Madame Pomfrey can repair bone injuries, even ones as serious as these. It’s not safe to send them all to St. Mungo’s, not with the Death Eaters clearly having some control over the Floo Network, and who knows what other aspects of magical travel.”
“Can I go with her?” Aidan asked. “I promised her I would stay with her.”
“You’ll have to follow behind us, after that it’s up to Madame Pomfrey.”
The team of Healers took Eavan from Aidan’s arms, setting her on the stretcher. As Aidan took a step back, allowing them to do their work, he surveyed his group of friends.
“Where’s Dorcas?” he asked.
“She was tortured,” Katie said, breaking down into tears again.
“I got to her as fast as I could,” Sirius said, his voice sounding hollow. “But she was unconscious.”
“My mom’s with her,” Frank said. “She’ll do everything she can.”
“Right,” Aidan said nodding, his head buzzing with all the new information.
“We’re ready, if you’re coming,” the Healer said.
“Yeah, I’m coming.” Aidan nodded at each of them, not knowing what else to say. The relief they each felt at being alive permeated everything, but somehow it wasn’t something any of them could really verbalize.
“A little bit of help over here!” Dirk Cresswell called out in relief as his friends came into view. He was attempting to help Harper walk, but as the adrenaline of the attack wore off her pain was becoming increasingly greater with every moment. He would have carried her, but with burns covering half her body, he wasn’t sure he could lift her without causing her even more pain.
“Dirk!” James breathed as they heard his cry for help. He, Sirius, Remus, Peter, Frank, and Donald ran over to help.
“Help! Over here!” the girls yelled. Another team of Healers appeared. They took one look at Harper’s injuries and summoned a stretcher.
“We have to get her to St. Mungo’s right away,” the lead of this team said to his team.
Dirk watched as they lifted her onto the stretcher.
“Can I come with her?” he asked.
“I’m sorry,” the Healer said gently, “it’s too dangerous. We can’t take anyone more than necessary back with us.”
“I’ll be okay,” Harper said weakly. She reached out her good hand and took Dirk’s. “Thanks for saving me.”
“We saved each other,” he corrected her. “You were amazing. Thanks for decking that Death Eater for me.”
She smiled and then they were forced to let go as the transport was ready to go.
“She decked a Death Eater?” Sirius asked.
“Right in the nose,” Dirk said with a ghost of a smile.
“That’s fucking awesome,” Sirius said in awe.
“I wish I’d thought of that,” Donald concurred.
“It felt good,” Dirk said. They all turned to look at him. “I couldn’t let her have all the fun,” he said sheepishly.
He looked around the group assembled and his smile slid off his face.
“Where’s Regal and Jackson?” he asked. No one said anything for a moment. James and Sirius exchanged a brief look. James moved to put his hand on Dirk’s shoulder. Dirk shrugged it off and said more urgently, “Where’s Regal, Potter? Where is she?”
“She didn’t make it,” James said.
Dirk looked for a moment as if he wanted to punch something else, and then his face crumpled with grief. He, James, Sirius, and Daphne, Regal’s teammates, hugged each other for a long moment.
“And Jackson?” Dirk said several moments later.
“We don’t know,” Lily said.
“He was hurt bad, Regal saved him.” Alice supplied.
“Hestia and Augustus made it to the passageway with him,” Peter said, speaking for the first time. “But like Alice said, he was a mess. I don’t know if they’ll be able to save him or not.”
“They’re both just fifteen,” Mary said after a moment.
Healer Smyth looked at his young patient with something akin to awe. When Jackson Peakes had been brought into St. Mungo’s, Healer Smyth was certain he was already dead. The type of trauma his body had sustained was usually not survived. But the boy was still alive and was still fighting. But he was still a long shot to live through the next few days. His organs had been returned to his body, but a second major trauma to them in as many hours had led many of his organs to fail or begin shutting down. He had tubes in his arms supplying him with potions to keep his organs operating, a blood restorative draught, as well as several other potions in order to repair the intense damage done to his body by the spell. No one would be betting on this kid to make it, but Healer Smyth liked to believe that beating the odds was possible.
They gave statements to the Aurors, all of them. They told how it had been a normal day. Lily, James, Frank, Alice, Sirius, and Remus all mentioned realizing there was an absence of teachers, but that then everything had begun almost right after that. They all told how the Death Eaters and Voldemort had come out of nowhere; that it had been impossible to apparate. They all told the Aurors how they had been certain they would die, they were just trying to keep other people alive.
Finally, satisfied, they were all released to Professor Sprout who escorted them to the passageway the teachers had used, with orders to go immediately to the Hospital Wing for treatment of their injuries. She hushed all their declarations that they weren’t hurt, that all the attention should go to those who were really injured, but she would tolerate no dissention, they would go to the Hospital Wing.
Aidan sat in the midst of chaos. He was perched next to Eavan’s bed in the Hospital Wing. Madame Pomfrey had administered skelegrow and about five other potions to Eavan, who was thankfully still unconscious given the amount of pain she would probably be in otherwise. He held her hand and gently rubbed circles on it with his fingers, hoping that on some level she would sense his presence and know that she was not alone.
He watched as the injured came in, brought either by their friends, or by transport teams like the one that had brought Eavan. Terris Boot and Marlowe Fawcett both had minor burns and abrasions. After being mended by one of the Medi-Witch’s assisting Madame Pomfrey, they checked on Eavan, and spoke with Aidan for a moment, comparing notes on what had happened, and who else they had each seen and knew therefore had survived. But there was too much chaos to allow those that had been healed to stay long, so soon they were ushered out. The only reason Aidan was being permitted to stay was that he had pretty much refused to leave, and had promised to stay sitting right here next to Eavan and not move a muscle. Quinn Cadwallader brought in a limping Addison Abbot, who had a sprained ankle. The Ravenclaw Prefect John Dawlish seemed very muddled and confused when a transport brought him in, and from what Aidan gathered he had either been severely concussed by something or confunded.
But in the constant parade of injured; there was one in particular that drew Aidan’s attention. Barty Crouch Jr. was brought in by a transport as well, with severe gashes, almost like stab wounds, all over his body. He was covered in blood. Aidan couldn’t have told anyone what it was that bothered him about this particular injury or victim, maybe just all their speculation over Crouch had made everything about him seem suspicious, but something about that kid just made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and he couldn’t help but watch him more closely than any of the others.
The Gryffindor Common Room was almost oppressively silent. The room was filled as every student from first year to seventh year was there, but it felt empty without those who were missing. Regal was dead, never to return. Jackson was hanging in the balance between life and death. Harper was at St. Mungo’s being treated for her burns. There were only three gone from the whole, but the difference felt staggering.
First and Second Years were gathered together by each of the windows whispering quietly to each other, trying to piece together what had happened, since obviously none of them had been present and they had each only heard fragmented bits of events from this survivor or that one.
The Third Years were sitting in the far back of the common room looking completely shell-shocked. It had been their first time to Hogsmede, after all. A day many of them had been waiting for, looking forward to for years. And they had all made it back, but not without a cost. Regal and Jackson had both sacrificed their own lives to save the group of them.
The Fourth Years sat not far from the Third Years, just trying to wrap their heads around everything that had happened. It had all happened so quickly.
The Sixth Years were at a table by the Portrait Hole. None of them spoke. Harper was one of them, and her absence weighed on each of them. They had all known Regal and Jackson personally, as they were just a year apart. Everything was wrong. It all just felt like a painful, confusing mess.
Two groups sat barely separated in front of the fireplace. Two groups among all the masses of grieving were inconsolable: the Fifth Years and the Gryffindor Quidditch Team.
The Gryffindor Fifth Years had already lost one of their own today in Regal, and no one expressed much realistic hope that they would be spared from losing a second. Those who had seen Jackson’s mangled body had been shocked that he was still alive then, none expected he would live long.
And then there was the Quidditch Team, sitting huddled together on the couch and the armchair right beside it, closely surrounded by their friends. Daphne and Hestia sat together in the chair, hugging each other crying softly. James, Sirius, Dirk, and Augustus sat on the couch, each one lost in their private thoughts and misery from the day. On the floor beside them sat Mary, Lily, Alice, Frank and Remus. Peter sat a few feet in front of them, staring straight ahead into the fire, trying not to think or feel anything, but failing in both regards.
After a while, no one was really certain how long as time seemed to have lost meaning in the face of their grief, Professor Dumbledore summoned James, Lily, Alice, Frank, Sirius, Remus, Peter, and Dirk for a brief word in the corridor. It was clear he was exhausted, and had many things on his mind. But he wanted to take a moment to thank them for the bravery they had shown that had resulted in many lives being saved. He excused the others and instructed Lily and James to come to his office the following morning where he would brief them more fully on the response and steps for additional safety precautions that would be taken.
And then they were returned once again the Common Room and its overbearing silence.
Eavan Madley came to with a rush of pain. Her legs felt like they were on fire, burning her alive. But she was almost immediately aware of something else as well. The gentle pressure of the hand holding hers—Aidan was here with her. Everything that happened came screaming back to her.
“What happened,” she breathed.
“Hey, you’re awake,” he said, looking her through sad eyes. “Do you want me to get Madame Pomfrey so she can give you something else for the pain? She has to regrow the bones in both of your legs, so I know you can’t be very comfortable.”
“I don’t want anything yet,” Eavan said, even though the pain was terrible. “I need to know what happened…How did we get back to Hogwarts? Is everyone else okay?”
“Lily, James, Alice, Frank, and everyone else were able to hold off You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters until Dumbledore and the other teachers were able to get there. After that, I think things ended pretty quickly. I carried you out once I was sure it was clear, and a team of Healers from St. Mungo’s brought you back here.”
“And everyone else?”
“I heard Madame Pomfrey talking to one of the medi-wizards…Regal Shacklebolt was killed. I don’t know how, but apparently she and Jackson ran into trouble because he’s badly hurt as well. Madame Pomfrey doesn’t really expect him to make it, but Dumbledore’s being given hourly updates on him. Dorcas was crucioed and she’s being treated by Healer Longbottom, but there’s been no update yet. That’s all I really know.”
“I didn’t know Regal very well, just from Prefect stuff, but she and Jackson always seemed nice.”
“I knew her a little, from playing against her in Quidditch, but not well. But yeah, she was nice. I think she was on a date with Peter Pettigrew today. He was pretty excited about it, I think from what I gathered.”
“I hate them, all of them. They’re all just as bad as He is. We’re just a bunch of kids, and they butchered us in the streets.”
“I know,” he said quietly, thinking not only of today’s victims but of his brother as well. They sat quietly for another few minutes.
“I’ll get Madame Pomfrey now, if you’d like,” Aidan offered.
“Okay,” Eavan agreed.
After Madame Pomfrey had administered the pain potion to Eavan her eyes began to droop almost immediately. But there was one more thing she wanted to say.
“By the way,” she breathed, “it’s your turn to kiss me now.” She wasn’t aware of much else as she faded away into oblivion again, except for the light brush of Aidan’s lips against her own.
Later in the evening Professor McGonagall joined her House in the Common Room. She had no update to give them on Jackson, but Harper was responding well to treatment.
“I want to apologize to each of you,” she said, strain showing on her face. “I feel as the Head of Gryffindor, each of you are my responsibility. I failed to keep you safe and for that I am sorry. I want you each to know that should you need to talk about anything regarding the attack, my door is open to you as you try and move forward.”
They expected her to leave after her announcement, but she didn’t. Instead she sat with them, shared their grief, their remembrances, their tears.
“You should know, Peter,” Professor McGonagall said, speaking to Peter. “I’ve never seen Regal as excited as she was this week. I don’t know how many times I had to chastise her during class on Friday to be quiet and pay attention, but she was practically bouncing off her seat, telling anyone who would listen about her upcoming date with you.”
Peter smiled, for the first time since he had seen her in Hogsmede.
“I was excited too,” he said. “I really liked Regal a lot; I just wish I had told her that.”
“She knew,” Daphne said, speaking up from where she and Hestia were still sitting huddled together. “She liked that you all were taking things slowly, that she could savor each step in your relationship.”
“She gushed over those flowers you gave her,” Hestia said, speaking up for the first time. “She didn’t have much of a green thumb, so they died fairly quickly, but she kept them by her bed anyway.”
“I told her I’d show her how to press them, so she could keep them in a scrapbook or something, but she was insistent that they stay on her bedside table,” Daphne added with a small smile. “She could be so stubborn.”
“No kidding, I still have a bruise from where she hit me with that bludger,” Augustus said smiling ruefully.
“She was so pissed at you lot that night for making her dodge all those bludgers,” Sirius said fondly.
“I’m going to miss her so much,” Hestia said with a sad smile before collapsing once more into tears, being hugged tightly by Daphne.